Where’s Zuck? Facebook CEO silent as data harvesting scandal unfolds
|| The Guardian UK
Amid calls for investigation and a #DeleteFacebook campaign, company releases an official statement but its figurehead keeps quiet
“The chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has remained silent over the more than 48 hours since the Observer revealed the harvesting of 50 million users’ personal data, even as his company is buffeted by mounting calls for investigation and regulation, falling stock prices and a social media campaign to #DeleteFacebook.
Facebook’s shares slid 6.77% on Monday following the news, knocking $36bn off the company’s valuation as investors worried about the consequences of the revelations. Zuckerberg owns 16% of the company and personally saw his fortune fall $5.5bn to $69bn, according to Forbes’ live tracker of the world’s wealthiest people.
The embattled social media company announced on Monday that it will engage a digital forensics firm to conduct an audit of Cambridge Analyticato determine whether or not the firm still has copies of the data in question.
The Observer reported this weekend that a company called Global Science Research (GSR) harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and sold the data to Cambridge Analytica. The New York Times reported on Saturday that Cambridge Analytica still possesses “most or all” of the harvested data. Cambridge Analytica has denied knowing that the data was obtained improperly.
“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made,” Facebook said in a statement.
The engagement of the digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg is unlikely to assuage officials in the US or UK, where lawmakers have issued calls for Zuckerberg to testify about the data breach. Representatives of Stroz Friedberg were at Cambridge Analytica’s office in London on Monday evening when the UK Information Commissioner’s Office asked them to leave so the authorities could pursue its own investigation, Facebook said hours after the first announcement.
On Monday, the US senator Ron Wyden sent Zuckerberg a detailed list of questions related to the breach, with a demand for answers by 13 April. Two members of the Senate judiciary committee, Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican John Kennedy, called for hearings with the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google.
“It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page,” said the Conservative MP Damian Collins, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee.
Referencing the government’s request for Facebook’s auditors to leave Cambridge Analytica’s offices, Collins tweeted: “These investigations need to be undertaken by the proper authorities.”
The three social media companies testified in Washington last fall, following the revelation that their platforms had been used by foreign agents seeking to illegally influence the US presidential election. All three companies sent their general counsels, a move that was criticized at the time. It is unlikely that Zuckerberg will be able to avoid congressional questioning a second time.
Experts have long criticized Facebook’s privacy practices, but their warnings have done little to dissuade users – now numbering more than 2 billion around the world – from signing up for the platform.
Whether the scandal will result in actual change in user trust of the company remains to be seen, but the hashtag #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter on Monday as users shared their intention to log off the social network for good. Others tweeted #WheresZuck, in reference to the executive’s silence.
Also on Monday, the New York Times reported that Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, would be leaving the company following disagreements with other executives over the handling of the investigation into the Russian influence operation.”
‘Parks And Recreation,’ Facebook and The New Privacy
– CIO / Opinion
“If you tuned into Parks And Recreation Tuesday night, you were treated to an episode where social media startup Gryzzl attempts to win over the hearts and minds of its new neighbors in the fictional town of Pawnee with boxes full of gifts, delivered via Amazon-esque drones.
The problem was that the gifts were perfect — too perfect. Gryzzl had been data mining every interaction the residents of Pawnee were having online and custom-tailoring their gifts to suit their exact interests. This didn’t go over so well, even as Gryzzl retorts that it did nothing that wasn’t perfectly legal. And besides, wasn’t everybody happy with the result?
The episode culminates in a speech given on a public access court show, where character Ben Wyatt (played by Adam Scott) delivers a short argument on how Gryzzl may not be breaking the law, but it obviously knows it’s not doing something good or else it would have been more forthright about the whole data mining thing.
“A person should not have to have an advanced law degree to avoid being taken advantage of by a multibillion dollar company. You should be upfront about what you’re doing and allow people the ability to opt out,” Wyatt proposes.
Don’t worry, Computerworld hasn’t become a TV review site (follow me on Twitter for my TV opinions). Nor am I suggesting that the world look to Tuesday night television for policy advice (though you could do worse than Parks And Recreation, which has won a bunch of Emmys — and how many Emmys has FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler won, huh).
But the cast and crew of Parks And Recreation hit on an important idea — not a new idea, necessarily, but one that’s reverberating around the web and that needs to be formally addressed.
We already know that privacy is the new killer app, and that events like last year’s iCloud hack and the Target data breach are turning security from a nice-to-have to a major competitive differentiator.
There’s another shift happening, too: Facebook, it is generally accepted, will never stop data mining the heck out of its users, because it makes a lot of money, and companies that make a lot of money tend to like the idea of continuing to make a lot of money. Users, who like the benefits and connections that Facebook brings to their lives, aren’t going anywhere, no matter how exploitative the means. The same goes for Google and basically any other “free” service on the Internet. Or look at Uber, which got into trouble recently for being straight-up creepy and pretty threatening towards women thanks to all the data it scrapes — but that same data is a valuable source for civic planners. It’s a give-and-take.
Creepiness is just a fact of life for people living the plugged-in lifestyle circa 2015.
Which is where Parks And Recreation comes in. What people want, more than ever, isn’t necessarily for Google to stop being creepy; people like personal data-mining services like Google Now, which can tell you when you have to leave the restaurant to catch a delayed flight without requiring your intervention at all.
No, what people want instead now is visibility — the insight to know what data, exactly, is being scraped, and the option to opt out. The choice of what to make public and what to keep private is paramount. Call it the new privacy if you have to call it anything at all.”
…Continue reading the insightful opinion piece by Matt Weinberger @ CIO.com
No Surprise: CIA Reportedly Funds Companies That Can Spy On You Via Twitter, Facebook And Instagram
– Tech Times
“The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is reportedly funding companies that spy on Twitter and Instagram feeds to monitor any signs of “unusual activity.”
Through its venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel (IQT), the CIA has made investments in “social media mining and surveillance” companies previously undisclosed. These include PATHAR, TransVoyant, Databricks, Dataminr, and Geofeedia.
The information was obtained from a document released by The Intercept, detailing the schedule of a recent “CEO Summit” of 28 IQT portfolio companies concluded in February. From the itinerary, the standout companies provided “unique tools to mine data from platforms such as Twitter.”
PATHAR has a product called “Dunami” that monitors social media sites for “networks of association, centers of influence and potential signs of radicalization.” These social media sites include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
TransVoyant offers procedures that analyze multiple data points to determine potential “decision-makers” who could organize “gang incidents” and situations threatening to the press. The tech company recently worked with the U.S. military to utilize satellite, radar, and drone surveillance data.
Dataminr has automated learning machines that mark trends in streams from Twitter by cross-referencing data gathered from other unusual clusters. These processes “directly license” Twitter data streams, for clients such as police departments, to “visualize” any sign of purported tendencies.
Geofeedia employs geotagging technology to monitor real-time movements, such as Greenpeace mobilizations, student protests, minimum wage rallies and other political activities. The data is utilized by corporations, including McDonald’s and the Mall of America, and law enforcement agencies in Detroit, Oakland, and Chicago, among other police departments.
A Violation of Privacy Rights?
Senior staff attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, Lee Rowland, believes such surveillance tactics employed by the CIA and other government bodies, along with private sectors, may infringe upon the public’s rights due to unwarranted suspicion.
“The courts have rightly recognized that when millions of bits of data are aggregated into a dossier about your behavior, that is no longer properly public and violates privacy rights,” said Rowland.
“When you have private companies deciding which algorithms get you a so-called threat score, or make you a person of interest, there’s obviously room for targeting people based on viewpoints or even unlawfully targeting people based on race or religion,” Rowland explained.”
“Facebook is working to combat a decline in people sharing original, personal content, the fuel that helps power the money machine at the heart of its social network, according to people familiar with the matter.
Overall sharing has remained “strong,” according to Facebook. However, people have been less willing to post updates about their lives as their lists of friends grow, the people said.
Instead, Facebook’s 1.6 billion users are posting more news and information from other websites. As Facebook ages, users may have more than a decade’s worth of acquaintances added as friends.
People may not always feel comfortable checking into a local bar or sharing an anecdote from their lives, knowing these updates may not be relevant to all their connections.
According to one of the people familiar with the situation, Facebook employees working on the problem have a term for this decline in intimacy: “context collapse.”
Personal sharing has shifted to smaller audiences on Snapchat, Facebook’s Instagram and other messaging services.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spoken at Facebook staff meetings this year about the need to inspire personal sharing, the people said. Facebook has tried several tactics to encourage more of these posts, such as an “On This Day” feature launched last year that brings up memories from past years that users might want to talk about again, or reminders about special occasions like Mother’s Day.
Facebook has also prompted users to post the most recent photos and other recently accessed content from their phones.
Original sharing of personal stories — rather than posts about public information like news articles — dropped 21 percent year over year as of mid-2015, The Information, a tech news site, reported Wednesday. Facebook said in a statement that “the overall level of sharing has remained not only strong, but similar to levels in prior years.”
Mark Zuckerberg: German Refugee Policies ‘Inspiring,’ U.S. Should ‘Follow Their Lead’
“Mark Zuckerberg praised Germany for their “inspiring” refugee policies during a visit to the country and reiterated his commitment to combating “hate speech” on Facebook.
Speaking at a town hall event in Berlin, the 31-year old billionaire said German leadership in the refugee crisis has been “insipiring” and a “role model for the world.”
“I hope other countries follow Germany’s lead on this,” he added. “I hope the U.S. follows Germany’s lead on this.”
Speaking at the same event, Zuckerberg also emphasised his commitment to tackling “hate speech” on Facebook.
“Hate speech has no place on Facebook and in our community,” he said. “Until recently in Germany I don’t think we were doing a good enough job, and I think we will continue needing to do a better and better job.”
Zuckerberg added that the company would place a special priority on tackling hate speech against migrants. Facebook’s policies, he said, would “now include hate speech against migrants as an important part of what we just now have no tolerance for.”
Germany has been exerting considerable pressure on Facebook to co-operate with them to remove alleged “hate speech” against migrants on the platform. In September, German chancellor Angela Merkel was caught on tape at a luncheon event pressing Zuckerberg on the issue.
Since then, Facebook has dramatically expanded its anti-hate speech efforts, . Facebook is also cooperating with a task force set up by the Germany Justice Ministry to hunt down alleged racists on the platform.
The Germany government is taking a hard line against online critics of its refugee policies. In September, it emerged that the government had hired an organization led by a former Stasi agent to patrol Facebook for allegedly xenophobic comments.